Friday, January 25, 2008

Can hibernation truly be over?

Oh, blog and kind visitors, thank you for your patience. I was just about to declare that I wasn't going to recite my little tale of upgrade woes and hardware/software issues, when my browser closed in the middle of my unsaved post. But I'm still not going to talk about it. Let's skip right to "plant choices," and hope for the technical best.

Here's a "special" Hamamelis vernalis in my front yard - it's 'Purpurea' (or maybe var. purpurea):

Pretty exciting that something's blooming in chilly late January, but visually, not something that makes us want to do backflips, is it? (No one asked why I was taking pictures of a dead plant, but a couple of passers-by did a double-take that I'm sure meant precisely that.) For one thing, it's looking more like straight-up H. vernalis than like anything purplish. Which is actually a slight improvement, as the purply-brown flowers it bore the last few years used to blend even more completely into the purply-brown stems. This is the first year the leaves have persisted this late. Maybe they're sad the fall foliage display never really happened? My front garden is given over (almost) exclusively to native plants, and increasingly to native plants with uses - preferably edible uses. This plant is native, but I think it would be happier with steadier water than I can provide there, and maybe a little more sun.

If I had more room, our fall-blooming H. virginiana would be a spectacular choice - that's where witchhazel, the stuff you buy in drugstores, comes from. And of course, it does its glory thing late, which is just as exciting as early. And it's arguably showier, though neither is as glamorous as some of the popular hybrids (like 'Arnold's Promise') - they're all descendants of Chinese witchhazel, H. mollis. Here's that flashy thing blooming (on your birthday, Ellen!) last week, at NYBG:

Did I mention all these witchhazels are fragrant, each in a different way? I actually started this post to warn the plant-besotted against getting all sidetracked by "special versions" of plants, and I was thinking it was time for my poor H. vernalis to move on and make room for something else. The container blueberry bushes look far more dramatic, with their bare red stems, than this poor thing in full bloom (and so very edible). But now I'm not so sure. I'll have to give it the scent-test in the next few days, when it warms up a little. And wait till spring, in any case.

And speaking of passing seasons - we are watching our beloved Kozskat's accelerating decline with a loving ache. At 17, she's still herself, if a little more addicted to heat sources, like my desk lamp. Please click on her, and think of her kindly. There's not much to do for her, and we are sad, but surprisingly not afraid.


Anonymous said...

Such a pretty girl.
Oh! Really must check my new witch hazel.

Ellen Zachos said...

H. virginiana rules! I love these bright yellow, fragrant flowers in the PA woods every November. But, soon the Asian witch hazels in Central Park will be in bloom; there's a nice patch on the hill between the back of the Met and the castle. People stare at me when I press my face into a flower.

Thanks for the picture of Kozcat. What a beauty. And she doesn't look a day over 12.

SaraGardens said...

H. virginiana is the bomb. I used to think 'Arnold's Promise' must have some virginiana in the gene pool, because I've seen it rebloom in fall. But I can't figure how a fall bloomer hooks up its pollen with a spring bloomer.

Mary, maybe you need a second witch hazel, huh?